Practicality and Usability more important than Open Source

Dave Neary is blogging and saying that Mozilla must focus on software freedom most and foremost and not on usability or practicality. He specifically says that “if we only concentrate on the surface, then Microsoft will win – they will add more functionality, make IE more usable, build a better browser the way they did in 1997 and 1998“.

Well, let them do it! If MS manages to create a better browser, let them retake that 95% of the market. What’s your problem with this from the moment you acknowledge that their product could become better if they try to make it so? Is your goal as a software developer to create better products that solve people’s problems or to jerk off endlessly and without real purpose?

David says that he is not a Free Software zealot, but he is clearly one. And it’s exactly that attitude that keeps Linux on that 2% of worldwide market share on desktops for YEARS now (if it wasn’t for Ubuntu we might have even seen a decline). The vast majority of users don’t give a shit about “Software Freedom”. They care about functionality. Because as I said in the past, this is the reason we created computers in the first place: to make them work for us. That’s why people bought a computer too. And now the FSF and its zealots wants to overwrite this need and make it somehow a philosophical issue where there is none.

This is a lot like saying that Microsoft is selling a car which is fast, durable and uses less gas and then the FSF says that they give away an ugly (but fast) donkey that’s more secure to ride and more “close to nature”. Sure, it’s a give away, but who the hell cares about donkeys anyways?

Adam has already blogged about the Firefox/FSF issue here and here.

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Adam wrote on October 24th, 2006 at 8:51 AM PST:

You know that if I disagreed with you, I’d tell you in a second. But you’re SO RIGHT it’s crazy.

A lot of IT people seems focused on “winning.” I just want the BEST program or system to do what I’m trying to do.

They miss the point, because comparatively, NO ONE cares about software freedom. NO ONE but a few geeks. It’s a non-issue. Software devs need to focus on a nice looking product with the right features (but not overkill). The goal shouldn’t be to “beat” Microsoft, it should be to design a product that is BETTER – then we won’t want to use anything else. And should Microsoft design a better product before first – I’ll use it.

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Eugenia wrote on October 24th, 2006 at 9:06 AM PST:

Exactly. This is the level where comparison and competition must be made. That’s how PROGRESS is made, via good competition. Linux/GPL/FSF do not contribute in progress and good competition as much as they could. Firefox is a good app but OOo, the Gimp and most of their desktop OSes lack so much in usability and integration that isn’t even funny. They get better with time to time, but MS and Apple move way faster, even if Linux has more devs. It’s disheartening to see that many GPL zealots drag Linux to this non-technological competitive stage and instead they try to compete on grounds that no one gives a shit about.

dotone wrote on October 25th, 2006 at 1:04 AM PST:

Eugenia, this is exactly what is supposed to be said. I mean look at the attitude, keep it free? well, it’s supposed to be “keep it real!”. A project that lacks a business plan lack the point, which results in decline, and then failure once the good will is disappeared.

mikesum32 wrote on October 25th, 2006 at 4:03 AM PST:

They have nothing to do with each other, or more precisely, they don’t have to be at odds.

What does open source have to do with practicality and usabilit ?

Look at Haiku or Syllable.

Ricardo Ramalho wrote on October 25th, 2006 at 9:23 AM PST:

The vast majority of users don’t give a shit about “Software Freedom”.

Yes, users don’t give a shit about “Software Freedom”. That’s true!

But… Most people don’t buy the precious Office or the precious Windows! At least here in Portugal. People want something that they don’t have to pay for. So, i believe that, when people have no chance to run away stealing M$ things they *may* think of alternatives.

But i somehow agree with you. :) Concentrate on practical things, not cheap-philosophy…

Sean wrote on October 26th, 2006 at 11:20 AM PST:

You’re exactly wrong ;o) The vast majority of people _creating_ open source software are doing it for themselves. Not because they want to get more than 2% of the desktop market share. Most people who are actively _contributing_ to the advancement of open source couldn’t give a hoot about the increase-market-share-zealots (except perhaps a couple of the distros). Why should they care what users that don’t care about open source software want? The answer is they shouldn’t. In other words, there is no problem. For people who don’t care about open source there is a perfectly good operating system, Windows. For people who _do_ care about open source issues there is Linux and company.

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Eugenia wrote on October 27th, 2006 at 2:36 AM PST:

I am sorry, but you are mistaken. Red Hat does care about sales, Novell too and Mozilla –obviously– too. While there are some hackers in their bedroom only care about coding and football, the real world of open source that has been shaped after Linux went mainstream in 1999, do care about market share and sales and image. You look at open source from the enthusiast’s point of view, but that’s not the only point of view that exists.

Sean wrote on October 27th, 2006 at 3:02 AM PST:

Granted, it’s not the only point of view that exists. But it is a view that is often overlooked. People involved in open source project, even the ones that _want_ to see increased market share, don’t want it at any cost. What they want is to see _open source_ succeed and become dominant. There is very little interest in creating another proprietary replacement for Windows. So there is no reason to worry about what people who don’t care about open source want. Those people already _have_ choices. What these projects are trying to do is provide the best possible _open source_ alternatives. So there is absolutely no reason to just throw out the primary motivation for being involved in an open source project just to get a little more market share. The price is way too high for very little benefit.

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Eugenia wrote on October 27th, 2006 at 5:09 AM PST:

As I explained in Dave’s blog, I don’t care if the source is opened or not. I care about things that work as I expect them to. For me, Software is a tool and nothing more.

Sean wrote on October 27th, 2006 at 5:12 AM PST:

Right, and there’s nothing at all wrong with that viewpoint. It’s just that there’s no reason for open source projects to care about users like you.

They’re trying to do something you don’t care about which is why you rant against them. But you should just accept that your needs and what they’re trying to provide don’t jibe. Just because they don’t cater to _you_ doesn’t mean that they’re doing something wrong or should change their focus.


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